U.N. must work more effectively, Putin says

Putin's words echoed his earlier statements as well as those made by other senior Russian officials this month, who stressed that the U.N. should play a lead role in solving the Middle East crisis.

Putin has also said that Russia might consider sending troops to take part in an international force in Lebanon, but only if the U.N. Security Council approves the deployment, according to the AP.

The fighting began June 12 after Hezbollah militants carried out a cross-border raid into northern Israel, killing eight soldiers and capturing two others.

Israel has responded with air and artillery bombardment and limited strikes by ground forces in southern Lebanon. Hezbollah has fired hundreds of rockets into northern Israel.

Close to 400 people have been killed in Lebanon, according to Lebanese security officials. Forty-one Israelis have been killed, including 24 members of the military, according to authorities.

Russia has sought to position itself as a key mediator in the Middle East crisis, saying it was maintaining contacts with all sides involved in the conflict and that Russian intelligence officials were attempting to secure the release of the captured Israeli soldiers.

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